SYPN – Executive Bios
Nicola Toffelmire – Co-Director
Nicola is a Master of Public Health Candidate at Simon Fraser University, and holds an Honours Bachelor of Science in Health Studies from the University of Waterloo. Since joining the Coalition in 2013, she has enjoyed acting as a Co-Director for the SYPN and engaging as a member on the Board of Directors and sub-committees. Nicola was selected to be Canada’s youth delegate at the 70th World Health Assembly. She was the 2016 chair of the Global Health Students and Young Professionals Summit, and a member of the local organizing committee for the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research held the same year. Nicola has previously supported research projects in Togo, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. She also worked at the International Development Research Centre, Canadian Institute for Health Information, Department of Global Health at Queen’s University, and as a teaching assistant at Simon Fraser University. Her research interests include sexual and reproductive health, emergency preparedness and response, and strengthening health systems in fragile contexts.
Kirsten Lee – Student Chapter Support
Kirsten Lee is an MSc candidate in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. Her work explores the barriers in the food environment that affect eating patterns and food choices, specifically among university students and young adults. Her objective is to influence policy changes and public health initiatives to promote healthful eating among students. Kirsten’s current Student Chapter Support projects include hosting Canada-wide events to connect student chapters across provinces, such as the Global Health Pitch Competition. Through her prior experience as Co-President of the Waterloo student chapter, she has become a strong advocate for mentorship at all levels. Kirsten hopes to promote an environment for SYPN members that introduces the career development and mentorship that she experienced with the Waterloo student chapter.
Gertrude Omoro – Student Chapter Support
Gertrude Omoro holds an Honours B. Sc. in Health Studies from the University of Waterloo, where she co-founded the first CCGHR student chapter. In her role, she helped organize and implement the Coalition’s 1st Annual Undergraduate Global Health Forum. As our SYPN’s Student Chapter Support Executive, Gertrude looks forward to using her experiences, insight and enthusiasm to support and promote the development of active and engaged chapters in academic institutions across Canada. Gertrude is currently the Outreach and Partnership intern at Cuso International, working to promote Canadians’ participation in sustainable development efforts by stewarding partnerships with diaspora communities. Prior to this role, she assisted refugee claimants at the Mennonite Coalition of Refugee Support in Kitchener, Waterloo. She also undertook a six-month International Youth Internship Program placement in Malawi as a Monitor and Evaluation Intern for a World Vision-led nutrition program, Machinga Starting Strong. Despite Gertrude’s varied interests in global health, her main areas of focus include health equity, maternal and child health, and health system management.
Palki Bhatt – Events & Conferences
Palki Bhatt is an MSc candidate in Global Health at McMaster University and holds a BMSc from Western University. As a SYPN Events & Conferences Executive at the CCGHR, Palki is using her experiences organizing global health symposiums and events to help foster environments and platforms where students and young professionals can network and engage in the global health community. Her specific interest in health in conflict has led her to projects involving gender-based and sexual violence in refugee populations, and work exploring the politics of health during war and genocide. Additionally, Palki has had experience working on development and advocacy initiatives in Zambia and Cambodia. Palki is currently conducting research with War Child Holland, where she is involved in an inter-agency project focusing on the improvement of the psychosocial wellbeing of caregivers to protect children in areas of humanitarian crises.
Afnan Naeem – Events & Conferences
Afnan Naeem is pursuing her Master of Public Health degree at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. She holds her BSc in Health Studies with a minor in Anthropology from the University of Waterloo. Afnan is in charge of the SYPN’s Events & Conferences portfolio and has been advising on the upcoming CCGHR Student Forum. She was actively involved in the development of the Waterloo Student Chapter and in the planning and implementation of a previous edition of the annual student forum. Afnan has a diverse range of interests in global health, which mostly dwell around health equity and social determinants of health both at the community and health systems levels. Currently, a mix of global events and personal experiences has shaped her interests in migration and health, conflict and health, global health ethics and governance. Recently, she was involved with a women’s health initiative in a refugee health centre in Kitchener and collaborated in the development of a newcomer women’s health series in the city. Afnan hopes to bring her enthusiasm, energy and ideas in the planning of events that propel knowledge, understanding, dialogue, mentorship and collaboration.
Stephanie Lu – Professional Development
Stephanie Lu is a fourth-year PhD student in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. Her dissertation work is focused on exploring gaps in evaluative practice in small NGOs in a water, sanitation, and hygiene context. She has been partnering closely with an NGO and has conducted field work in the Dominican Republic and Uganda. She supports the SYPN as a Professional Development Executive, co-managing the Professional Applications Service and sharing job opportunities and resources on building a career in global health. Next, she hopes to set up an online platform where CCGHR members can explore career options, give each other advice, and learn about skills that are valued in the workplace, all within a supportive community.
Lonnie Embleton – Professional Development
Lonnie Embleton is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Medical Science in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto and holds a Master of Public Health from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. For the past six years she has lived and worked in Kenya, and conducted research projects with marginalized children and youth focused on their sexual health, HIV, substance use, human rights and social policy. Lonnie’s doctoral research seeks to adapt, pilot and evaluate an innovative HIV prevention intervention for street-connected young people in Kenya. Lonnie joins the SYPN as a Professional Development Executive and is dedicated to providing guidance, support, and building capacity among young scholars and professionals. She hopes to bring engaging and participatory opportunities for SYPN members to launch and grow their global health careers.
Erica Westwood – Marketing and Communications
Erica Westwood is a Research Associate at Habitat Health Impact Consulting, located in Calgary. She holds a MSc in Global Health from McMaster University and a BHSc in Health and Society from the University of Calgary. Erica’s work at Habitat has led her to examine health issues in the extractive sector, through health impact assessments and population health studies. She has experience working on these issues across North America, as well as in Mongolia and Sierra Leone. She is passionate about improving health equity in host communities, with a focus on vulnerable populations. She is also interested in improving processes for integrating community health and engagement in resource development.
Sarah Ibrahim – Marketing and Communications
Sarah Ibrahim is a graduate from McGill University with a background in pharmacology. She is particularly interested in mental healthcare in conflict zones and global health ethics. As one of the SYPN Marketing and Communications executives, she has been working with her colleagues to set up a stronger social media presence for the network. What’s more, she and her co-executives have been working on the dissemination of a monthly SYPN newsletter as well as engaging content for the website. Through these initiatives, she hopes to engage the SYPN in order to help build a strong community of members with a shared passion for global health research.